2010: A Retrospective

4 Jan

Derek and I sit at a table at a local coffee shop. The table is uneven and leans to one side depending on who’s putting more pressure on their respective side. For twenty or so minutes, Derek and I have a contest based on who can push the table down harder. The tabletop eventually snaps off of its legs and we’re asked to leave.

Derek and I sit at a table at a different local coffee shop. Our table does not move.

“Place must have heard we were coming,” Derek says, lightly pushing down on his side of the table with his thumb.

“Must have,” I say, swinging my laptop bag off my shoulder and sitting down. Derek walks to the counter to buy our first round of coffee. When he comes back, it’s clear that he’s torn up paper and put it in my drink.

I buy a new cup of coffee and get settled in. The internet requires a passcode here, and after futilely clicking on the mouse really hard, so as to let my computer know that I’m serious and that I really need to get online, I give up and shut my laptop. There is nothing useful on a computer if you can’t get on the internet.

Except MS Paint.

Circa 2009. Still great.

“So,” I say to Derek, who’s in the process of turning the page in a big, scary, book he’s reading about the Civil War that, no matter how long he reads it, seems to make no progress in. “Another year over.”

He tilts his head up without moving his eyes from the page. “Yes.”

“Another year over–a new one just begun,” I say. Now he looks up.

“Let me stop you there.” He says, holding up his right hand. “Let me stop you right there before you break into that song you like to break into during this time of year.”

“Okay,” I respond, staring straight ahead. “Then answer my question.”

“Fine,” Derek says. “Ask.”

“What do you think about this past year? How was it for you–if you were to rank it amongst the other past years you can remember (Derek can’t remember things from when he was a baby or when he was really into Rush and huffing).”

“Kyle, I’m not sure if you were thinking parenthetically just there, but you said that last bit out loud.”

I stare straight ahead. “Yes.”

Derek sighs and casts his eyes down for a moment, thinking. “I suppose I’d say the year was good. I went back to school, got pretty decent grades, and didn’t catch anything, although God knows I deserved to.”

“Fair enough,” I say.

“What about you,” Derek asks, now engaged in the conversation. “What did you take away from the year?”

“Well,” I say. “I learned a lot.”

“Learned a lot?” Derek asks, leaning back and taking a sip of his coffee. “Explain.”

“Well, for one thing, I learned how much I like having my own room. I shared a room with another dude for the first time in twelve years this year. The last time I shared a room, it was with my brother when we were children, and I don’t remember it smelling nearly as bad when I woke up in the morning as it did this year (It smelled like shit.).”

“Talking parenthetically again.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s all right.”

“I learned a lot about myself as a dater.” I continue. “I learned that I either date crazy girls, attract crazy girls, or date sane girls and make them go crazy.”

“Nothing says that all three can’t be true,” Derek says, shrugging.

“This is true. That is something I learned in 2011.”

“What is?”

“That all three can be true.”

“Hm.”

I check my phone and Derek checks his. Funny how that sort of thing is sort of like yawning in front of someone.

“I learned that I may drink too much,” I say.

“Yea?”

“Yea. When you’re trying to get a buzz before work off of the hand sanitizer in your car, it’s time to think about some things.”

Derek shrugs. He seems to be so-so on the issue.

“I learned that it’s damn important to be okay with who you are when no one else is around. That the worst feeling in the world is feeling inadequate–inherently inadequate, like a defective machine–and that holding on to feelings like that can cripple you. Like Professor X if he didn’t have super powers.”

“Christopher Reeve,” Derek says.

“Interesting.”

“The guy from ‘Born on the Fourth of July.'”

“Yea.”

“Larry Flynt.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” I say. Derek raises and lowers his eyebrows indifferently and takes a sip from his cup. “Yea. Of course I learned about those inadequate feelings from other people. I never feel inadequate, personally.” I flex my biceps and quietly slide across the table the long list of books I’ve read.

“Uh huh,” Derek responds. “Everybody’s had those feelings. No shame in it.” Derek thinks for a moment. “I’m excited about this year. I’ve got good feelings, Kyle,” Derek says.

“Me too, Derek.”

“You want another cup?” Derek asks.

“Are you going to put paper in it?”

“Maybe. But hey–if I don’t, you’ll pretty much be where you already are. You could just take the chance that I will actually bring you coffee and not a mug full of coffee and torn up receipts.”

I think for a moment then hand him my empty cup. “I think I’ll take that chance.”

Derek takes the two empty cups and walks toward the register. His back is to me as he prepares the coffee.

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